Can You Sue Over Sexual Assault During a Massage?

Permission to touch your body does not mean permission to violate it — sexual assaults during a massage are unacceptable, and you can hold individuals and businesses legally accountable.

Many depend on massage therapy services not only for relaxation and enjoyment but also for muscular rehabilitation. Massage therapy involves an element of trust since services are often given by a stranger. Unfortunately, this kind of private environment makes it incredibly easy for perpetrators to commit their crimes.

If you feel you have been sexually assaulted, violated, molested, or experienced unwelcome or inappropriate touching during a massage, this page is intended to help you understand your options moving forward.

If you need to speak with a lawyer about your situation, call the San Diego office of Jessica Pride directly at 619-516-8166, or schedule a free, fully confidential consultation online. Our staff is here to support your needs both legally and emotionally during this difficult time.

Can You Sue a Massage Parlor?

Yes, if you have been assaulted or injured at a massage parlor, you may be able to bring a lawsuit. You could potentially file a claim against individual employees, the owner/manager, or the business depending on what occurred. Examples of sexually inappropriate touching you could file suit over include:

  • Inner Buttocks: The buttocks are typically included in a full body massage service, but this is entirely up to the client and 100% optional. However, there are guidelines for this area. The massage therapist must not work close to the orifice or open the cleft.
  • Breasts: Contact with breasts during a massage is prohibited in most of the U.S. There are a few states where this is legal; however, it requires written consent in advance by the client.
  • Inner Upper Thighs: For the most part, this area is never touched — whether in the front or rear of a client. The single exception is if the client has requested it beforehand because of a muscle or tendon injury, and the area should remain draped during the process. Otherwise, the therapist should not come within 2-3 inches of this area.

When a massage therapist inappropriately touches a client, it is a criminal offense. A therapeutic massage should never involve contact with the genitals, specifically a client’s vagina, penis, or testicles. When the massage therapist initiates this, it is considered abuse. If a client requests it, it may be deemed prostitution.

Every part of a massage is outlined with rules of conduct. If you experienced inappropriate touching during a massage or think you might have, our staff of caring professionals can help determine whether these rules were breached. Reach out to us online or by calling (619) 415-8822 to discuss your options in a safe, supportive environment.

How Much Is My Case Worth?

There is no one number or range that accurately describes what your case may be worth during negotiations or at trial. This is because each case is decided on its unique details, including the cost of your injuries, losses, and pain and suffering.

While criminal charges are decided by the police and prosecutors, if you were sexually assaulted during a massage, you have the option of taking the matter to civil court with a personal injury attorney like Jessica Pride. Our trained, experienced, and compassionate team at The Pride Law Firm can help you determine if your case meets the criteria for:

  • Battery Damages: Sexual battery involves actual unwanted contact of a sexual manner. This may involve inappropriate touching, rape, or coercion of sexual acts to someone against their will or to a person incapable of consenting. Damages could include medical bills for emergency and ongoing treatment, and lost wages if you had to take time off work.
  • Assault Damages: These apply if you were not physically harmed, but were threatened by an attempt of harm, or if you feared you would come to harm. This includes verbal sexual harassment or an attempt at sexual molestation. Damages here could include intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), and therapy for related conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleeping problems, flashbacks, diminished quality of life, or other emotional injuries.

Depending on the circumstances of your incident, you can expect to hold the perpetrator liable for numerous offenses, and seek compensation for your injuries and losses.

By choosing to pursue justice for yourself, you could help save others by removing predators from jobs in massage parlors or spas. By seeking the compensation you deserve, you help incentivize businesses to better protect their clients with more thorough background checks, and stronger response protocols when someone reports abuse.

A blond woman wearing a white robe waits in the massage room of a spa.

Can You Sue Massage Envy?

Yes, you can sue the Massage Envy company or any other large or national chains such as Hand and Stone or Elements Massage.

Sexual assault in massage has gained media attention in recent years, as with the hundreds of lawsuits that were filed against Massage Envy with accusations that included women being:

  • Sexually molested or penetrated without consent
  • Forced to touch the sexual body parts of the masseuse
  • Rubbed against by the sexual parts of the massage therapist (an act commonly referred to as frottage)

Over 180 accusers filed complaints among the nearly 1,200 Massage Envy locations nationwide. Women who reported abuse were ignored by franchise managers, enabling more abuse toward other massage clients. In such instances, an assault survivor may have the right to sue both the individual who assaulted them and the business that helped cover up or facilitate ongoing abuse.

How Do You Report Massage Therapist Sexual Assault?

It is best to report the incident right away to preserve evidence and notify authorities to act. Once you terminate the session and get to a safe location, here are important steps you should take:

  1. Secure evidence. Avoiding showering or discarding articles of clothing. If at all possible, refrain from using the restroom or even washing your hands. You may risk losing vital pieces of evidence to support your claims. Be sure not to delete any photos or texts, and save any receipts that might be related to the incident. Your attorney can help you identify what may be essential evidence and how to best preserve it.
  2. Contact local law enforcement. Contact police as soon as possible after a sexual attack. Describe to them exactly what happened and be sure to include all details, as they may later be used as evidence. You can speak with police with your attorney by your side for reassuring support and legal counsel.
  3. Seek medical care. Visit your physician for an examination following a sexual assault incident, even if you do not believe you were physically injured. It is important to seek medical help right away to begin coping with the physical and mental effects of sexual abuse. Your doctor may recommend taking a rape kit test.
  4. File a complaint with the massage board to have their license revoked. Whether it is a spa chain or a privately owned business, you should file a formal complaint at the location where you received your massage immediately following your session. Contact the massage or business board as well about revoking licenses. Your lawyer can help you word your complaint so that your rights and privacy are protected.
  5. Secure legal advice. An experienced sexual assault attorney can aid with the following steps, and help to determine your legal options. This is important to do sooner than later, as your attorney can provide you with counseling and care resources needed for your recovery. Your lawyer can also begin the work of a lawsuit right away, leading to quicker justice.

Having an attorney present throughout the reporting process helps protect your rights and allows you to make fully informed decisions. Your lawyer can also act on your behalf, handling communications with the perpetrator so you need not be re-traumatized. Let us take on the work of building your case while you focus on self-care in peace.

We understand that it may be difficult for some survivors to discuss what happened to them. Part of our firm’s role is to communicate with other parties on your behalf so you don’t have to relive the incident every single time.

Can You Sue for a Massage Injury? Contact an Attorney

Sexual assault is an injury against your person, and you have the right to sue a massage therapist or business if you were harmed. If your personal boundaries have been violated, or you have been verbally or sexually abused, you have rights under the law. The compassionate advocates with Jessica Pride and The Pride Law Firm are here to help.

Our staff uses trauma-informed care when interacting with clients, and we help educate other legal professionals on the intricacies of sexual assault litigation. We have represented multiple survivors in high-profile cases involving abuse by medical professionals, youth leaders, dentists, clergy and others, including massage therapists. If you feel your requests for privacy, boundaries, or respect were ignored during a massage, you are advised to speak with a sexual assault attorney to discuss your legal options.

Jessica Pride understands the devastation and emotional ramifications of sexual assault. She is not only a legal advocate who fights passionately on behalf of her clients, she is a trusted friend and confidant. If you have been abused at the hands of a massage therapist or any sexual perpetrator, we are with you and for you. Please contact The Pride Law Firm today at ​619-516-8166 to receive a free, private consultation. We will answer your questions anonymously and without obligation, and all information is held in the strictest of confidence.

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Massage Sexual Assault FAQs

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Does it matter what kind of massage I chose?

Sexual assaults are criminal acts that can happen at almost any time, including during various types of massage. The type of massage you chose in no way excuses a violation of any kind. That being said, when speaking to an attorney, it helps to understand what type of massage you received.

Common types of massages available at spas and physical therapy centers include:

  • Swedish Massage: Uses long, gliding strokes, friction, rubbing muscles, and kneading to promote relaxation, reduce blood pressure, and increase circulation.
  • Deep Tissue Massage: Involves strong pressure to reach the deeper layers of muscle tissue. The goal of this massage is to reduce stress and hormone levels, and lower the heart rate while boosting mood and relaxation.
  • Sports Massage: Designed for athletes and physically active individuals, this type of massage is uniquely geared toward the client’s sport of choice. The massage focuses on areas of the body that are overused during activity to alleviate sore muscles.
  • Trigger Point Massage: Pinpoints trigger points, or tender spots, often isolated within a group of muscles that can cause shooting pain. Trigger point therapy can cause temporary relief from pain and help correct and balance posture in the long term.

Asking questions about what you can expect from the session before it begins can help you understand when a massage therapist is crossing a personal or professional boundary.

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What is informed consent during a massage?

Informed consent is a principle derived from medical ethics. It says patients must have sufficient information and understanding before making decisions about their care. Informed consent during a massage refers to your legal right to determine the type of services you receive. It also addresses the massage therapist’s ethical obligation to include you in the process.

Getting a massage requires informed consent. This means you must agree to the treatment voluntarily without being coerced through fraud, force, or deceit. It’s also understood that you can withdraw your consent at any time during your treatment. This is known as dynamic consent, and means you can change your mind at any point.

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What is the power differential in institutional sexual abuse?

A power differential describes the power contrast between an authority figure or professional, and a person under their care or instruction. Institutional sexual abuse is sexual misbehavior linked to, and often shielded by, powerful institutions like churches, schools, workplaces, rehab facilities, and prisons. It also applies in hospitals, other healthcare institutions like mental health facilities, as well as therapeutic massage businesses and corporations.

A key feature of institutional abuse is the power differential involved.

There is a power differential in massage therapy. The relationship between a massage therapist and a client is particularly fragile since the client is physically exposed. This is also true with doctors, dentists or dental assistants, plastic surgeons, and any other practitioner in a similar capacity. For this reason, a massage therapist is held to exceptionally high standards for professionalism and ethical behavior. They are responsible for protecting the person under their care. A violation of that duty may be grounds for a lawsuit.

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How long do I have to file a massage sexual assault lawsuit?

Each state has a deadline for bringing sexual assault cases, known as a “statute of limitations.” In California, where The Pride Law Firm is located, those deadlines have been expanded to allow most adult victims of sexual abuse up to 10 years to file a personal injury lawsuit. Those limitations have also been recently expanded for child survivors of sexual abuse and assault.

The reasons for these deadlines are to ensure cases are brought while evidence and witness memories are still fresh. While you still deserve your opportunity to seek justice no matter how much time has passed, the sooner a claim is filed, the stronger your case will likely be. Additionally, the sooner your case is resolved, the sooner you may be able to find closure, and stop a dangerous predator from harming others.

We understand the emotional state you may be in after enduring such a traumatic experience. We are here to address your legal needs as well as your emotional ones. Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation by calling 619-516-8166.

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